Where we are going and when...

  • Depart Tucson - June 5th
  • Arrive in Johannesburg - June 6th
  • Kruger National Park for Safari - June 7th - 10th
  • Capetown - June 10th - 18th
  • Capetown for France vs. Uruguay - June 11th
  • Simons Town for Shark Dive - June 12th
  • Capetown for Italy vs. Paraguay - June 14th
  • Winelands Wine Tour - June 15th
  • Durban - June 18th - 20th
  • Durban for Netherlands vs. Japan - June 18th
  • Victoria Falls - June 21st - 24th
  • Johannesburg to Tucson (via Atlanta) - June 24th

South Africa

South Africa

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's Always Summer in Durban

Relaxing afternoon with a glass of wine on the deck.
Kids on the beach - " i wonder how many sharks are out there."
South African kids on their way to the game!

Cool Durban stadium with awesome view of the Indian Ocean

After three days in the wild at Ngala and eight days in cosmopolitan but
cool and rainy Cape Town, Durban was just the thing we needed. On the coast
of the warm Indian Ocean, Durban was sunny and balmy. After the World Cup
promoters finally had to acknowledge that it can be a little cold in South
Africa in June, the phrase "It's Always Summer in Durban" started to appear
in promos. The focus for our time in Durban was to hang out on the beach,
watch Holland play in a spectacular new stadium and find the country's best
Bunny Chow.
As always, Dave found a great place to stay; The Bentley on the
Beach. The Bentley is located north of Durban near an upscale beach
community called Umhlanga (pronuonced "umshlanga") which resembled a
combination of Ft. Lauderdale and La Jolla. Nice beaches, luxury high rise
condos, fancy single family homes and a town center filled with sidewalk
cafes and bars and a ton of TV screens.

On our first full day, we took the park and ride van and bus from a gigantic
shopping mall, downtown to a stunning new stadium for the Holland / Japan
Group Stage game.
The Dutch fans were the highlight of the game. Oranje
everywhere; business suits, clown suits, curly wigs, crazy shades and
relatively tame national team jerseys. Although the Japan fans showed great
costume creativity, they were just no match for the Dutch.

Durban is heavily influenced by Indian culture. A well known South African
fast food; Bunny Chow, was invented in Durban. Bunny Chow is curry in a
bread bowl. Unfortunately, though we ate curry often, we never did satisfy
the Bunny Chow craving.

The day at the beach was just what we needed before heading for our last adventure in Victoria Falls!

Stay turned for the Vic Falls post.

Monday, June 21, 2010

British Airways

British Airways

The Campbell’s and the Foster’s both woke up early in the morning, packed, brushed teeth, got ready to go. Everyone gets to the airport. Though the Campbell’s had an earlier flight by about 20 min. We made it to Joburg easily but when we got to the airport, the Campbell’s were checking in already for the flight to Zimbabwe and Collin said they had been in line for 45 min. We had about 90 minutes until we were due to board. So it’s about 55 min. later and we’re checking in and someone says anyone for Victoria Falls? The guy that was checking us in said “no don’t close it these people are checking in for the flight.” They ended up closing it for some reason anyways. So they left to argue and see what they could do. They came back and lied to us and said we are sorry but the plane has been changed to a smaller aircraft and so there are no more seats left. So they bought us a cheapish room and breakfast. Later Kim posted pictures of Victoria Falls and it depressed us a little, but we’re leaving tomorrow. We had barely anything go wrong on the trip, but there had to be something bad go wrong. So now we sit here tired and depressed watching the Spain game at the Joburg airport.

More African adventures tomorrow.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Misperceptions of South Africa

I must say that I did NO research about South Africa before our trip. However, I did receive quite a few comments that had me thinking about how we would manage there. Some of the comments are below:
1. “Aren’t you worried about the crime – theft, kidnapping, etc.?”
2. “I can’t believe you are taking your kids to Africa, aren’t you worried about their safety?”
3. “Aren’t you worried about malaria and other diseases?”
4. “What will you eat?
5. What will it be like in a 3rd world country?
6. It's one big hot desert!
Interestingly, the perspective of a new friend (South African) also staying at the Bentley on the Beach Guesthouse is “We really only have petty crime here, it’s nothing like the States where you have murders, etc.” I thought this was very interesting, as our fear was that crime would be extensive here, I remember our first day walking through Cape Town when Ari and I were watching every person around us – wondering who was following us and thinking we might be an easy target. I think it’s like anywhere in the world (including New York City), there are opportunists who will take advantage of those that are not as careful with their belongings. A perfect example, the first evening in Cape Town, we were having dinner at a restaurant near our B&B (Dale Court). The kids were at one table and the adults at another – the plan was to watch the World Cup Concert. Collin, Reed, and Connor got up and moved about 10 ft over to some couches in front of the television. Kyle was still at the table with her back turned to the empty seats. A young man walked in and stood next to the table (near Collin’s seat). He quickly swiped up Collin’s iTouch and began to turn around and walk out – LUCKY for us, BOTH Ari and Greg saw him do it and were able to avert the theft by taking it back from him. Since then, everyone has been extremely cautious with their electronics and backpacks!
We have taken our kids on many non-U.S. vacations. We are very thrilled to be able to give them the opportunity to see the world and experience life outside of the United States. We are very careful with them and don’t allow them to wonder off alone. One thing we have made sure is that they understand and appreciate what they have, as we have seen MANY who have much less.
Diseases are found everywhere in the world, not just South Africa. Since we are here in the winter, the mosquitoes have not been a problem, however, we are taking our doxycycline for malaria prophylaxis before going into Victoria Falls. Thankfully, we are all up to date on our vaccinations, and I am sure we don’t have anything to worry about. While HIV/AIDS is a huge problem in Africa as a whole, it is not something these two families have to worry about while traveling in South Africa.

Ok, I must admit, I was a little worried about what we would eat too! OMG, the food has been incredible. And by the way, the steaks are almost better than anything you will find in the US! The fruit has been phenomenal – fresh and sweet, the veggies are great, and the rest has been just short of phenomenal. The favorites so far are calamari, hamburgers, and curry. I don’t think we have had a bad meal yet! The worst part is waiting for it ;-). There are lots of grocery stores (SPARs here), and specialty markets similar to AJs in the US – we want for nothing! One food item that is definitely not up to the Campbell standards is the beer (remember beer is a food item – it is made out of yeast and grains like bread, and therefore it is a food). The Castle lager is very much like American beer (Coors, Budweiser, etc.), and the “Imports” are Heineken, Amstel, etc. Not really quenching our taste buds fully, but we are surviving on the grape juice of South Africa – wines here are pretty darn good!
Third World Country – I certainly wouldn’t call South Africa a 3rd World Country – especially as I sit on the deck of a B&B after having a full breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, fruit, and coffee watching my children play on the beach. There are families and fisherman on the beach as well – everyone looking happy and healthy. I feel like I am in Southern California! The accommodations have been top notch, the service has been 5-Star, and the food and activities have been beyond expectations. In fact, I would say that being in South Africa has been more like living in the US than when I have stayed in Europe. The people are remarkably nice and helpful and joke around a lot and appreciate our company (and we theirs). Spending time in the Townships of Capetown was most eye opening for us, and the part that made me feel that I was in a 3rd World Country (read Ari and Greg’s post on the Townships). Even there, the people were friendly and happy and willing to share their way of life with us.

It's not all desert, and it certainly wasn't hot! We saw snow on the mountains, experienced rain in the city, and enjoyed cool breezes by the beach. Don't believe everything you see on TV!
I always ask myself after leaving a place I have visited – is this a place I would come back to? Three weeks ago, I said “this was a chance of a lifetime since I will never come back” – today, I say “when can we come back and do/see what we missed the first time?” It’s been an amazing experience for 8 people – a chance of a lifetime, but one that can happen again!

Township Tour & Robben Island

Langa Township

So many beautiful faces.

Last Monday, we visited two black townships. Tuesday, we toured wine country. Wednesday, we took a ferry to Robben Island. Thursday, we drove to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. As the photos attest, the wine route and towns along the coast are as beautiful and prosperous as any that can be found in the U.S. or Europe. They are difficult to reconcile with modern day Langa and Kayelishta and the stories told by former political prisoners detained on Robben Island.

Beginning in the late 1940’s, the Afrikaaner National Party began codifying existing racial divisions in order to create an entirely segregated society. It was hardly “separate but equal”. The National party wished to guarantee that white South Africans would control all important economic and governmental resources in the country. It did so by enacting laws that stripped black South Africans of property, freedom of movement and association and, finally, citizenship.

We began our history lesson on apartheid in South Africa with a visit to the District 6 Museum. Our eyes were opened to the experiences of the Blacks in South African cities, such as Cape Town, as we came to an understanding of how entire black communities and neighborhoods were forced by the apartheid political regime to leave their homes and move into the townships located further from town. As late as 1966, District 6 was the last black neighborhood in Cape Town to be cleared of black families, many of their homes destroyed to make way for new buildings for white families. Interestingly, many lots have been left vacant – a scar of remembrance for this community.

During this time, all South Africans were given identity cards that categorized them as White, Black or Coloured – (Indian or Asian or mixed race) and they were segregated based on their race and ID cards. Male black workers from rural areas were required to carry a “Dom (dumb) Pass” in order to work in the cities, essentially a “work visa” in their own country. They were separated from their families and arrested and detained for up to 3 months if unable to show the dumb pass when questioned. Each year 250,000 blacks were arrested for pass violations.

Our township tour guide, Thandit, a native black Capetonian, who grew up and still lives with his family in the township of Langa, took us next for a personal visit to Langa. Langa is home to 160,000 black South Africans. It is difficult to describe in words the stark living conditions and poverty. We were welcomed into Pam’s “home” on her 23rd birthday. She shares a 2 room shelter (maybe 400 sq ft) with 16 people, 6 adults share 3 small beds and 10 children including her own 2 year old little girl all sleep in the front room on mats on the floor. Reed innocently told me that he liked the coziness of everyone sleeping together. Pam is “fortunate” because her home is inside a permanent building called a hostile. She is on a waiting list to move into a renovated hostile that will have fewer residents per room.

Pam on her birthday.

Cape Town is rainy and cold in winter. Most of the other structures are “informal” residences (make shift shacks) , which are made from whatever materials the residents can find. Many have tin roofs that are not water tight. Most do have electricity that the new government has provided. Bathrooms consist of a long row of portajohns along the perimeter of the township. Water is distributed at central areas with faucets. The townships have small shops and schools as well as a 1 medical clinic. And a few Shabeens or pubs, where we all tasted home-brewed beer. Yuck!

We visited one of the schools. Beautiful preschoolers sang and danced for us. They were practiced, but very excited to see us, especially our children who gave them candy and danced with them.

We also visited Kayelishta. This township is home to more than 1 million black South Africans. Living conditions were the same as Langa. However, we did meet Vicky who runs Vicky’s B&B, located in the heart of the township. We toured the B&B and it was very pleasant. It is an example of entrepreneurship that is pretty amazing given the obvious disadvantages of township life. Vicky collects paper and pencils for the school children and each year throws a Christmas party for them, giving them gifts of school supplies sent by visitors from around the world. Vicky shares the same amazing positivity, cultural pride and lack of bitterness expressed by many of the blacks whom we met. They are proud and full of hope for a better future. However, there remain tremendous problems of poverty, overcrowding, unemployment (40%), crime, teen pregnancy, alcoholism and HIV.

Robben Island

Two days later, we took the ferry to Robben Island. Robben Island was the site of an infamous prison used by the apartheid regime for breaking the will of black South African political activists including Nelson Mandela and current South African President; Jacob Zuma. Political prisoners on Robben Island were subjected to hard labor, isolation, insufficient nutrition and random beatings in order to disrupt their ability to organize opposition to the apartheid regime. Many prisoners served ten years or more on the island following sham trials before an apartheid government magistrate. Our tour guide served a number of years for “sabotage”.

Amazingly, the political prisoners used their time on the island to organize anyway. They studied and they formed a soccer league. The soccer league was fascinating. They were initially only let out of their cells for hard labor in the limestone quarry. They refer to a tunnel in the quarry as the place where democracy started. They were gradually able to negotiate the right to get some exercise and they parlayed that right into the ability to play soccer. With the help of the International Red Cross, they were able to obtain kits, cleats and soccer balls. They formed a sophisticated governing body for the soccer league and engaged in endless debates about rules and disciplinary matters. This governing structure later formed the basis for establishing a national government when the prisoners were released and achieved democracy.

Today, South Africa enjoys democracy but is still struggling to provide access to education, health care and prosperity to all South Africans.

View of Cape Town and stadium from Robben Island.